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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 87, no. 2240: February 18, 1911

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February iS, rgir. RECORD AND GUIDE 301 ESTABUSHED ^ UARPH 21'J> 1868, D£V&-TEDpF^ESTATE.BmLDlKG Ap.cKlTECTURE.Hca;sQl01DDEeaRAT10t/. BUsii^Ess Aifo Theses of GifJERAl 1Ktefi.est, PRICE PER YEAR IN ADVANCE EIGHT DOLLARS Communications sliould be addressed to C. W. SWEET Vablished Etsery Saturday By THE RECORD AND GUIDE CO. President, CLINTON W. SWEET Treasurer, F. W, DODGE Vice-Pres, & Genl, Mgr,, H, W. DESMOND Secretary, P, T, MILLER Nos. H to 15 East 34tli Struet, New Xork City (Telephone. Madison Square, 4430 to 4-133,) "Entered at the Post Office ai Neui York, A', 1'.. as second-class v.:c'.tcr." ('opjrlghtcd, 1911, by The Racord & Guide Co. Vol. LXXXVII. FEBRUARY IS, 1911. No. 2 2 40 THE erection of a skyscraper in or near the financial dis¬ trict of lower New York bag become a most arduous and costly task. Formerly, a bank or a building company would buy three or four lots and run up a twenty-storj building without more ado. But now tbe promoters of such an enterprise contrive to buy all the property neces¬ sary to secure good air and light for their tenants, often occupying years in tbe process, aud then erect a structure with a forty-story tower in tbe center or on a corner—a tow¬ er whose light is absolutely protected by "the lower part oE tbe same building. Tbe result is always spectacular, and a desire for some kind of personal or corporate advertising is usually associated witb the building of tbese forty-story towers. Because of tbe difficulty and expense of securing the necessary land, they are built only very rarely; but one structure like the Woolworth Building will cost as much money and accommodate as many tenants as seven or eight of tbe skyscrapers of ten years ago. SOMEWHAT less than ten years ago, the decorating and furniture importing firms were moving into Fifth ave¬ nue, south of 34tli street. They stayed there a very short time, even for New York. Recently tbey have all been mov¬ ing a mile farther north and their tendency is to pick up lo¬ cations as near 57tb street as possible. Those who cannot afford Fifth avenue rentals are turning to Madison avenue, just north of -12d street, and to the side streets between Madi¬ son and Fifth avenues. In a couple of years there will be very few firms of decorators and old-furniture dealers south of 34th street, and not very many between 42d and 34th streets. Tbey need to keep as closely as possible in touch with the fashionable residential district, and to stick to sites easily accessible in carriages. The congestion of traffic on Fifth avenue consequently makes locations in the fifties very desirable. But they are a peculiarly fluid set of ten¬ ants. They rarely invest much money in their premises, save by way of rent; and they are riuiek to move as soon as a more desirable district is presented. They always pro¬ vide a safe prophecy of tbe future course of tbe more exclu¬ sive classes of retail trade. CHARTER CHANGES. ANY changes in tbe charter of New York City whicb are proposed during the present session of the Legis¬ lature should be carefully scrutinized. In all probability attempts will be made to increase the power of the Board of Aldermen at the expense of the power of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. Already it is announced that a bill will be introduced transferring to the Board of Aldermen the power to elect a Mayor—in case of a vacancy in that office. Such a change In the charter would not be fair either to the existing president of the Board of Aldermen or to tbe people responsible for his election. He was elected not merely as a member of the Board of Esti¬ mate, but as vice-Mayor, and in case of a vacancy be Is entitled to the succession. New legislation is needed, but in view of the great importance of the offlce of Mayor in the government of New, York City tbe new legislation should assume the following shape: In the event of a vacancy the President of the Board of Aldermen, who had been elected as vice-Mayor, should serve until the next election—at whicb time a new man should be chosen for the rest of the unexpired term. The people of New York are entitled to select their own Mayor, and they have never shown the slightest inclination to delegate that busi¬ ness to the Board of Aldermen, BUILDING ENCROACHMENTS. No DOUBT before -long the municipal authorities and tbe general real estate interests will arrive at such an understanding of the history and nature of buildimg en¬ croachments, and of the complemental relation which build¬ ings and streets must sustain to each other, that they will be prepared without resorting to State Legislative aid to draw up such an executive order or local ordinance as will not only correct and restrain abuses but also insure the fu¬ ture stability of building lines. The fundamental related questions are as old as the city itself, since the fore¬ fathers inherited them with their architectural examples from "across the sea. The manner of building houses in vogue for hundreds of years, together with the restrictions imposed by the regulation shallow city lot, compelled house- owners to do certain things in times past, with the sanction of "tbe Mayor, the Aldermen and the Commonality," which cannot be permitted in our time, at least in congested thor¬ oughfares. Public conscience has been aroused by many small abuses, and by a few large ones, and the consequence of this and of a real necessity for widening the roadways of certain streets is seen in radical orders from two Bor¬ ough Presidents applying to all streets alike. If the public mind were fully convinced of the constitutionality aud per¬ manency of these recent executive orders, the matter might very well be permitted to remain permanently where it now is, and builders would then see the necessity of devising a style of construction or type of house that would fit tnto the new order of things acceptablj'. But it will be very difficult to make property owners believe that they have no more right to tbe street in front of their houses than if they had never paid an assessment for improving it, or if the public mains in the street and tbe utilities iu their houses were not as indissolubly connected as the fruit is to the vine or the leaves to the trees. Furthermore, with strict pro¬ hibition against any more stoops and areas over the build¬ ing line in two of the boroughs, and no action in the other three, it is hard for the public to see that the case is no longer one for administrative discretion, as it was held to be no longer ago than the year 1908 by tbe then Corporation Counsel. If there really is a measure of discretion, and if a way can be found of giving access to the basement of apartment houses without seriously injuring their appear¬ ance and rental value, most of the critics of the new orders would be disarmed by such a compromise. THE EAST RIVER WATER-FRONT. THE Streets along the East River have had few building improvements in recent years. Nearly all the exist¬ ing buildings used for business purposes have come down from previous generations, and not a few are in disrepair. In a number of instances buildings destroyed by fire have not been replaced. Compared with the business district along the North River the streets near the East River appear to have gone back in the last quarter century. It is true that much of the property is owned by estates and a good deal by large landlords who seldom make improvements, but this would not have kept the district back if there had not been other repelling circumstances-—^not the least of which were the consequences of diverting traffic from the ferries to the Brooklyn bridge. The times have not favored the progress of such commercial interests as have centered along this shore from the earliest years of the city's history, as they have been overshadowed by those which later grew up on the North River, The East River side is still living in the age of coastwise sailing ships and small canal boats, and the North River is more particularly in the age of trans¬ atlantic express steamers and continental railroads. The east side of the island has been allied with Tradition rather than with Invention and Progress, but it will not be always. The development of this island has been first on one side and then on the other, and back again, as new forces have arisen. When the Barge Canal is opened to the Great Lakes, and the Panama Canal to the western seaboard of South America, we should see some new forces at work in this harbor, the resulting benefits from which will, if they follow natural channels, be seen particularly at the East